I’ve never given much credence to the view that the best soundtracks are the ones
you can’t hear. Certainly different soundtracks play different roles in different
films. Inevitably a single soundtrack will also play different roles within the same film.
Sometimes the wind beneath the wings of the drama; and sometimes the carrying the action.
The corollary of all this is that there’s no reason on Earth—or planet Hollywood
for that matter—that a good score shouldn’t be a treat in its own right.
Many composers could rightly claim that film scorers have it easy. Inspiration handed
to them on a platter; or on a screenplay at least. A highly paid collection of
talent—writers, directors, cinematographers—to fire their creativity before they
ever put pencil to manuscript, or MIDI to sequencer.
Even a film that isn’t well realised in itself will almost always contain some
sentiment that is a rich source for musical interpretation, whether it be comedy, tragedy,
suspense or any one of the infinite twists of romance.
Of course Hans Zimmer has scored some films that don’t just contain a glimmer of
inspiration, but rank in the upper cinematic strata. Gladiator, Driving Miss Daisy, Thelma
and Louise, Power Of One and the Lion King represent as diverse a range of quality films
as can be found while fishing in the mainstream. Music from each of these is included
among a dozen selections from Zimmer’s oeuvre, captured for this album at a live
concert performance at the Flanders International Film Festival of October, 2000.
Zimmer’s music might be born of cinematic inspiration, but as with all good music
it has a life of its own. Once such music becomes familiar, as many of these themes have
become familiar, there is nothing more exciting then to hear it performed live. The
nuances of interpretation, the organic creation of sound, will always excite not only the
new listener but those who already love the music.
Although the performances here are inconsistent and the recording a little distant and
grainy, it is still a fascinating and entertaining album for all the aforementioned
reasons. Of course a more virtuosic orchestra, and a sparkling production and it could
have been a tour de force, so there is an element of disappointment. Especially as Zimmer
has not capitalised on the opportunity to arrange any notable suites or segues between
Instead the CD presents like a greatest-hits rock concert, with polite applause
punctuating the pieces instead of screams and whistles. We cinephiles are so refined!
Gratifyingly, Australia’s Lisa Gerrard delivers one of the more sparkling
performances. Her unique vocals are even more epic and haunting on this live version of
Now We Are Free from Gladiator, than on the soundtrack recording. While
Zimmer himself adds tasteful piano for Drivng Miss Daisy.
As a compilation, this is an unbeatable collection of themes and cues from one of the
world’s great film music composers. Zimmer has come a long way since collaborating
with the Buggles (of Video Killed The Radio Star fame). No amount of studio panache will
ever kill the joy of beautiful music played live. While this isn’t a stellar concert
in terms of execution it is still full of rewards, even among the slip-ups.
Published September 27, 2001